After discovering a mysterious blank tape, Natsumi decides to watch it to see if it is really the legendary cursed tape. She soon regrets her decision when she realizes it is the real tape. Now she is cursed and the ghost, Sadako, is going to kill her in two days. She enlists the help of a college professor, a priestess, a medium, and her best friend Yuri in order to try to get rid of the curse. The medium determines the only possible way to get rid of the curse is to have it battle with another curse: the curse of Kayako in her haunted house. It is the ultimate battle between The Ring and The Grudge.
Most people have seen either the US or Japanese versions of The Grudge and The Ring. Personally, I have only ever seen the US versions, so this was my first dive into the Japanese versions of the stories and characters. The plot in general was very interesting. The film definitely focused more on the Sadako part of the story, only briefly showing the curse of Kayako before the epic final battle. Because of this, it felt like the young girl who gets cursed by Kayako was a bit of an unnecessary character. They needed her to show what happens to those who enter Kayako’s home, but I believe it was shown sufficiently in scenes of other lesser characters entering the house. The unevenness was one of my biggest issues with the film. A lot of “vs” films tend to either focus too much on one character or not even have the two entities meet to battle. Freddy vs. Jason is an example of a flawed “vs” film, but it succeeded in having a relatively even split between the two villains.
The film had an excellent mix of thrills, shocks, and laughs. There were a few moments that were very creepy, and more than once I was surprised by the level of violence that some of the deaths had. The humor was probably the most surprising to me. Even with the final battle between Sadako and Kayako, there were a lot of unexpected things that happened and things that I couldn’t help but laugh at (in a good way). Most of the laughs happened when spiritual medium Kyozo and his young blind sidekick, Tamao, were on screen. Tamao especially had some hilarious one-liners. Her blunt and honest take on what was happening added much needed humor.
The entire cast did a great job. There isn’t any person I can single out as not giving a stellar performance. While everyone was great, there were two specific standouts for me. Masanobu Andô was great as spiritual medium Kyozo. Then, of course, there was his young partner in crime, Tamao, played by Maiko Kikuchi. These two were so hilarious together. You couldn’t help but laugh every time they were on screen. The pair of them were so enjoyable that I can see there could easily be a spin-off movie made just about the two of them and their work in the supernatural field.
Surprisingly, there were very few effects used in this film. Beyond the makeup and hair on the two ghosts, what made truly them creepy was through their acting. With Kayako, most of what makes her scary is the way she contorts her body. There were some subtle, yet effective, practical effects used for some of the kills. These scenes really surprised me with how grotesque they were without really being gory or bloody. There was one huge CGI effect at the end of the film, but there is no way they could have done it with practical effects. It also wasn’t something that stood out in a negative way, so that means the CGI was well done.
Sadako vs. Kayako is Japan’s Freddy vs. Jason. While I enjoyed Freddy vs. Jason, Sadako vs. Kayako definitely surpassed it in almost every category. This film will chill you and make you laugh in equal measure. The only real drawback is that this definitely feels more like a Sadako film featuring Kayako. Beyond that, it is still an exciting thrill ride with an ending that you won’t soon forget. This is also a film that should be experienced on the big screen. Keep an eye out to see if it is playing near you. You won’t want to miss it. Also, be sure to stay after the credits; there is a little something extra awaiting you on the other side.
OVERALL RATING: 7/10